Difference Between Unipolar and Bipolar Depression

Main Difference – Unipolar vs Bipolar Depression

Unipolar depression and Bi-polar depression are two major types of depression which are often confused by many people including health care professionals. The difference between unipolar and bipolar depression depends on the aspects of etiology, phenomenology, symptoms and treatments which are often referred to as separate branches on the ‘mood disorder diagnostic tree’ according to the classification of DSM. The main difference between unipolar and bipolar depression is that bipolar depression is characterized by phases of either mania or hypomania whereas unipolar depression does not go through two phases.

This article describes,

1. What is Unipolar Depression – Condition, Causes, Symptoms and Method of Treatment

2. What is Bipolar Depression – Condition, Causes, Symptoms and Method of Treatment

3. What is the Difference Between Unipolar and Bipolar Depression

Difference Between Unipolar and Bipolar Depression - Unipolar vs Bipolar Depression Comparison Summary

What is Unipolar Depression

Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, unipolar depression is known to affect more than 9 million Americans each year even though most cases go undiagnosed or untreated due to lack of awareness about the symptoms and their outcomes.

Owing to a female predominance, this illness affects 1 in 7 women by hitting at least 1 episode of depression during their lifetime. The main pathophysiology of unipolar depression includes an imbalance of the brain chemicals known as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. A positive family history and social issues such as poverty and lack of support are also known to have a major influence in this condition.

Patients affected by Unipolar depression indicate extreme levels of depressed mood, loss of interest and pleasure, irritability for most parts of the day. Other less highlighted symptoms are sleep disturbances such as insomnia or hypersomnia, loss or increased appetite, restlessness, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, poor concentration ability and suicidal feelings or emotions pushing towards death.

Unipolar depression is usually treated with a combination of psychotherapy and anti-depressants where cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy are known to have a successful effect on affected individuals.

Difference Between Unipolar and Bipolar Depression

What is Bipolar Depression

Bipolar depression is defined as one of the two characteristic phases of the condition known as Manic depression, which is defined as the change of emotional or behavioral patterns of an individual in contrast to his normal or typical baseline personality. In fact, these hypomanic episodes, usually lasting for days to weeks will be alternating with periods of mania.

Although the exact etiology of bipolar depression is not very clear, main causes have been identified as stress, childhood trauma, abuse, and genetic factors. Patients who are suffering from the depressive phase will indicate fluctuating episodes of depression, anger and negative emotions about life; sometimes severe negative feelings are associated with suicidal attempts.

Bipolar disorder is categorized into two subtypes known as, bipolar I and bipolar II, based on their severity. Bipolar I refers to a condition characterized by a few hypomanic (depressive) episodes, whereas bipolar II refers to several severe manic as well as depressive episodes.

Bipolar depression is known to be a lifetime disease which needs to be treated vigilantly. In fact, patients are prescribed with a combination of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and sometimes sedatives.

Main Difference - Unipolar vs Bipolar Depression

Difference Between Unipolar and Bipolar Depression


Unipolar depression: Unipolar depression does not have alternating episodes.

Bipolar depression: Bipolar depression will specifically contain phases of either mania or hypomania.

Signs and Symptoms

Unipolar depression: Patients will experience excessive sleepiness and daytime fatigue or weakness associated with an increased appetite and weight gain.

Bipolar depression: Patients will wake up in the early morning and will find difficult to fall back to sleep. They will also experience loss of appetite and decreased weight gain.

Associated Disorders

Unipolar depression: Unipolar depression is not associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder or social anxiety disorder.

Bipolar depression: Bipolar depression is more likely to be associated with strong signs and symptoms of anxiety which may include obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder or social anxiety disorder.


Unipolar depression: Family history and social issues with lack of support influence unipolar depression.

Bipolar depression: Stress, childhood trauma, abuse, and genetic factors are some of the identified causes of bipolar depression.

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About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music

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